Category Archives: Secrecy

Ma Bell sells spooky data; Internet attack probed

Two major stories on the cybersecurity front to report.

AT&T sells your data, for a fortune

The first item comes from Ma Bell, who’s been helping folks spy on you and pocketing a fortune for doing.

From the Guardian:

Telecommunications giant AT&T is selling access to customer data to local law enforcement in secret, new documents released on Monday reveal.

The program, called Hemisphere, was previously known only as a “partnership” between the company and the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) for the purposes of counter-narcotics operations.

It accesses the trove of telephone metadata available to AT&T, who control a large proportion of America’s landline and cellphone infrastructure. Unlike other providers, who delete their stored metadata after a certain time, AT&T keeps information like call time, duration, and even location data on file for years, with records dating back to 2008.

But according to internal company documents revealed Monday by the Daily Beast, Hemisphere is being sold to local police departments and used to investigate everything from murder to Medicaid fraud, costing US taxpayers millions of dollars every year even while riding roughshod over privacy concerns.

Internet of things becomes a federal priority

After last week’s massive attackj on online services, carried out through baby monitors, security cameras, and other devices connected to the Internet of Things, Uncle Sam is getting busy.

From Reuters:

Obama administration officials sought on Monday to reassure the public that it was taking steps to counter new types of cyber attacks such as the one Friday that rendered Twitter, Spotify, Netflix and dozens of other major websites unavailable.

The Department of Homeland Security said it had held a conference call with 18 major communication service providers shortly after the attack began and was working to develop a new set of “strategic principles” for securing internet-connected devices.

DHS said its National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center was working with companies, law enforcement and researchers to cope with attacks made possible by the rapidly expanding number of smart gadgets that make up the “internet of Things.”

Such devices, including web-connected cameras, appliances and toys, have little in the way of security. More than a million of them have been commandeered by hackers, who can direct them to take down a target site by flooding it with junk traffic.

You have to wonder if another federal agency, the NSA, is busy exploiting these same devices to pry into our lives.

Just a thought. . .

Graphic Representation: Despicable vs Deplorable

We begin with two offerings on the general state of Campaign 2016.

First, from the editorial cartoonist of the Kansas City Star:

Lee Judge: Storm conditions alert


And then an offering from the Baton Rouge Advocate:

Walt Handelsman: Other Worldly


From the editorial cartoonist of the Arizona Republic, our lone graphic featuring the Deplorable:

Benson: Clinton can’t patch these WikiLeaks


Indeed, she can’t. But even more damaging were the 100+ pages of documents released by the FBI, including a very ominous report that raises fundamental questions about her fitness to govern.

From CNBC:

A new trove of interview summaries and notes from the FBI’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails lays out a series of allegations that could prove fodder for future attacks on the Democratic presidential nominee.

The 100 pages, released Monday morning, include claims that Clinton “blatantly” disregarded protocol. Other claims include that a group of powerful State Department employees attempted to coordinate a document release, and that a department official asked for a “quid pro quo” related to the former secretary of state’s emails.

The documents, part four of four to be released by the FBI, include notes and interview summaries that may illuminate more about the bureau’s decision not to recommend Clinton be prosecuted for her actions.


One revelation in the documents came from an interview with an unidentified person who suggested that Freedom of Information Act requests related to Clinton went through a group sometimes called “the Shadow Government.”

“There was a powerful group of very high-ranking STATE officials that some referred to as ‘The 7th Floor Group’ or ‘The Shadow Government.’ This group met every Wednesday afternoon to discuss the FOIA process, Congressional records, and everything CLINTON-related to FOIA/Congressional inquiries,” the FBI’s interview summary said.

Come on, folks. “Shadow Government”? Can this be anything other than a huge red flag about how a Clinton White house would operate?

Indeed, as the BBC reported, Clinton’s office wanted a Benghazi message declassified and buried:

The [FBI] colleague said he had been contacted by [undersecretary of state Patrick] Kennedy asking him to change the email’s classification level in “exchange for a ‘quid pro quo’”.

The State Department, the document says, offered to “reciprocate by allowing the FBI to place more agents in countries where they are presently forbidden”.

The country in question was Iran, and the implication is clear: Politics trumped what the FBI saw as its own legitimate investigative needs.

Scary, ain’t it?

And now back to the cartoons

And all feature the Despicable.

First, from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

Mike Luckovich:Trumped up


The Washington Post weighs in:

Tom Toles:  Donald Trump delivers his biggest insult yet


From the Chattanooga Times Free Press, no noose is good noose?

Clay Bennett: The Noose


Next, the Los Angeles Times:

David Horsey: Republicans waffle as Trump is captured by the alt right


And from the Columbus Dispatch:

Nate Beeler: Who You Gonna Call?


Finally, back to the Washington Post:

Ann Telnaes: Trump’s the one who should take a drug test


U.K. spooks waged spy campaign on own citizens

Who do they think they are?

The NSA?

From the Guardian:

The UK’s security agencies have secretly and unlawfully collected massive volumes of confidential personal data, including financial information, on British citizens for more than a decade, top judges have ruled.

The investigatory powers tribunal, which is the only court that hears complaints against MI5, MI6 and GCHQ, has ruled that the security services operated secret regimes to collect vast amounts of personal communications data tracking individual phone and web use and large datasets of confidential personal information without adequate safeguards or supervision for more than 10 years.

The IPT ruling includes the disclosure from an unpublished 2010 MI5 policy statement that the “bulk personal datasets” include material on the nation’s personal financial activities. “The fact that the service holds bulk financial, albeit anonymised, data is assessed to be a high corporate risk, since there is no public expectation that the service will hold or have access to this data in bulk. Were it to become widely known that the service held this data, the media response would most likely be unfavourable and probably inaccurate,” it says.

The ruling comes as the House of Lords debates the final stages of the investigatory powers bill – the snooper’s charter – which will put mass digital surveillance activities on a clear legal footing for the first time since the disclosure by Edward Snowden of the extent of state surveillance in 2013.

Map of the day: Illegal cash transfer outflows

A look at funds being illegally siphoned out of nations in the Second and Third Worlds by folks ranging from plutocrats and crime lords to banksters and mere common criminals. From Global Financial Integrity:


Headline of the day: More Hillary lies exposed

From the McClatchy Washington Bureau:

Contradicting FBI view, Clinton’s leaked speeches portray her as computer savvy

Contrary to views collected by the FBI that Hillary Clinton was a technophobe unsophisticated in the use of computers, her paid speeches indicate that she was well aware of the dangers of computer hacking and penetration and that diplomats would be “totally vulnerable” without extreme precautions.

Yahoo’s Yahoos & a major case of buyer’s remorse

In his seminal 1726 satire, Gulliver’s Travels, Jonathan Swift coined a word to describe a loathsome creature spawned by his imagination.

The word was Yahoo, and here’s Wikipedia’s definition of the nature of the beast:

Swift describes them as being filthy and with unpleasant habits, resembling human beings far too closely for the liking of protagonist Lemuel Gulliver, who finds the calm and rational society of intelligent horses, the Houyhnhnms, greatly preferable. The Yahoos are primitive creatures obsessed with “pretty stones” they find by digging in mud, thus representing the distasteful materialism and ignorant elitism Swift encountered in Britain. Hence the term “yahoo” has come to mean “a crude, brutish or obscenely coarse person.”

Why anyone would want to name a company after disgusting a critter is something of a mystery, although the name may be apt given that the company was letting both the NSA and FBI root around in its emails searching for “pretty stones,” the jewels of intelligence.

And now a would-be buyer of the company is finding that they’re about to wind up with a mess of their hands.

From the New York Post:

Verizon is pushing for a $1 billion discount off its pending $4.8 billion agreement to buy Yahoo, several sources told The Post exclusively.

The request comes on the heels of the web giant getting bludgeoned by bad news in the past few days.

Yahoo revealed two weeks ago that it had been hacked in 2014 and that usernames and passwords for 500 million accounts were swiped. Then, earlier this week, it was learned that Yahoo had been ordered by a secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to scan emails for terrorist signatures.

“In the last day we’ve heard that [AOL boss] Tim [Armstong] is getting cold feet. He’s pretty upset about the lack of disclosure and he’s saying, ‘Can we get out of this or can we reduce the price?’” said a source familiar with Verizon’s thinking.

But it gets worse, as the Intercept reports:

Contrary to a denial by Yahoo and a report by the New York Times, the company’s scanning program, revealed earlier this week by Reuters, provided the government with a custom-built back door into the company’s mail service — and it was so sloppily installed that it posed a privacy hazard for hundreds of millions of users, according to a former Yahoo employee with knowledge of the company’s security practices.

Despite this week’s differing media accounts, this much isn’t disputed: In 2015, Yahoo provided the U.S. government with the means to scan every single email that landed in every single Yahoo Mail inbox. The scanning was kept an absolute secret — and as this ex-Yahoo source describes, that meant keeping it a secret from security personnel who came to believe it endangered Yahoo’s hundreds of millions of unwitting customers.

The employee, who worked at Yahoo before, during, and after the installation of the email-scanning program, requested anonymity because of a nondisclosure agreement formed when the individual quit several months after the program was discovered internally last summer. The source declined to share certain specific names for fear of violating that same NDA or the NDA of others, but The Intercept has confirmed details of the source’s employment at Yahoo, which would have put the then-employee in a position to know this information.

Yep Yahoo is precisely the right name, no?

Headline of the day: Schadenfreude + déjà vu =

From the New York Times:

Contractor for N.S.A. Arrested in Possible New Theft of Secrets

  • The F.B.I. has secretly arrested a National Security Agency contractor and is investigating whether he stole and disclosed highly classified computer code, officials said.
  • The possible theft would be a setback to the agency so soon after the leaks by another contractor, Edward J. Snowden.